Sunday, April 29, 2007

10 Days in a Row

It's been over a month since I quit smoking, so no more non-smoking status. You can assume from now on, that is my status at all times. Non-smoker. Yay. (although I had a dream last night that I was smoking. When I woke up I thought, whew! I didn't break my promise!)

On the reading pile: I picked up a literary journal out of Seattle called Cranky.
And contrary to the fact that their press is called Failed Promise, it is a fine, fine journal. Small press, yes, small minded, no. They're in stores, they've got staff, and they publish quality work. Many kudos.

I picked up the journal while I was at Burning Word: The Festival of Poetic Fire (not to be confused with Burning Man: the Festival of Naked Hippies). BW is put on by the Washington Poets Association every April at Greenbank Farms on Whidbey Island in Washington State. Great festival, very organized, with an enthusiastic audience. The headliners were George Bowering (Canada's first Poet Laureate) and the always fabulous Naomi Shihab Nye.

I got a question from someone asking what happens if I miss a day on my 10-Day Challenge. Well, generally I don't miss a day. That's the idea. That's the commitment.

But the question is relevant because I missed a day. Actually I missed a few days. My traveling to Washington and the fact that I'm moving right now put a little tweak in my plans. What I personally do when something like this happens is that I start over. The 10-Day challenge means 10 days in a row. So if I get through 7 days and then miss a day, I start over. This has only happened to me once before on a challenge (it was a 21 day challenge, too), and I had to start over three times. But I finally did it. After going 18 days and missing a day, I started over for the third and last time. It was a great motivator.

So, honestly, I've written for my hour only three times in the past week. So, I'm starting over on the challenge. An hour per day, 10 days in a row.

Tell me you success stories!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Updates Are Us - And Another Round of the 10-Day Challenge

Non-Smoking Status: Haven't had a cigarette in over 3 weeks and I feel great!

On the Reading Pile: Still reading the Automatic Millionaire Homeowner. It's taking some time to go through because I'm taking notes and making a list. He's got a checklist of action items at the end of each chapter. Very useful.

On the other end of the spectrum... I just picked up The Limits of Thought - discussions between physicist David Bohm and Krishnamurti - and Truth and Actuality by Krishnamurti. Yes, I realize how eclectic my tastes are. I'm reading these because a potential client is writing a book and these men influenced him. Regarding David Bohm, you gotta check out his bio. I knew of him, but didn't realize what a very interesting life he led. He was literally banned from looking at his own research, because it became classified information.

Packing to move, I'm always amazed at how many books are on my shelf that I've never read. Baby and I cancelled our cable. We're selling the TV. We're cutting expenses because dammit we're buying a house next year! We've decided to have No Tech Days around the house, where we spend time cooking, eating, reading, writing and whatever else comes to mind. Nudge, nudge, nudge.

In additional news... things went very well at the London Book Fair and now B&F are at the Bologna Book Fair rubbing elbows with publishers and convincing them that they'd be idiots not to make an offer on Brigitta. If anyone can do it, they can! Their enthusiasm is contagious.

* * * * *

(are you up to blasting out of your rut?)

Enough procrastination! Time for real commitment. As they say in the Mastery, how do you know you're committed to doing something? Because you're doing it!

The 10 Day challenge is a personal 10-day commitment. That's it. You decide what it is you'd like to commit to. 10 days is doable. 10 days is a limited amount of time. If you can't commit to doing something for 10 days, are you SURE it's something you really want?

It started one year when a friend and I challenged each other to write 10 short scripts in 10 days. It was a blast. And when it was over, I had 10 scripts, several of which are now production ready.

In the next challenge, I finished a screenplay in 10 days. In the next, I worked on my novel for 10 days. I've had friends take time out for themselves for 10 days, write a short story a day for 10 days, or meditate for 10 days. Whatever it is you've been procrastinating doing, do it for 10 days! Quit smoking for 10 days. Take a walk each day for 10 days.

So, here's my commitment... I will work on Brigitta the screenplay version for a minimum of an hour per day for 10 days (it was first a screenplay, then a novel, now I'm rewriting the screenplay again). It probably won't even take the whole 10 days. I'll decide what to do if I finish it before the time is up. I'll start tomorrow and anyone is welcome to join me.

That's it. That's my commitment. No excuses (such as moving, taxes, traveling out of town, etc). I could throw in plenty there. But this is about demonstrating my commitment to writing.

What's your commitment?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Miranda July Rocks

I just love innovation. Especially low-tech innovation.

Requiem (Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007)

My flag's been flying at 1/2 mast all week for one of my favourite writers. As John Stewart said, "The world just got a little less interesting."

So it goes.

A friend of mine sent me the following, a poem at the end of Time Quake, which is one of the few Vonnegut books I haven't read. There's time. I'm sure it will land in my lap when I need it most.

(from his last book 'Time Quake'):

When the last living thing

has died on account of us,

how poetical it would be

if Earth could say,

in a voice floating up


from the floor

of the Grand Canyon,

“It is done.”

People did not like it here.

How Vonnegut, I told my friend, to be so Sad and so Beautiful and so True all at the same time.

Me, I'm still reading Edward Tulane and it's lovely. The illustrations are classic, the story is well-told. I love the tone and the character of Edward, also sad and beautiful.

From the non-fiction pile, I'm reading The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner (Canadian edition) by David Bach. In 2004, Baby and I promised each other that we'd buy a house on the Sunshine Coast. Well, we keep our promises, dammit! My, three years went by fast! Next year is 2008, so I'm cramming for the test.

On the writing pile, as MUCH as I am itching to start the sequel to Brigitta (working title: The Ruins of Noe), I have decided to complete a few other projects first. April is the month for completing projects! I'll start on RoN when we settle into our new place. Until then, I'm polishing my feature script The Mercy of Silence, for a local producer who requested it. Then I'm going to finish putting the novel version of Brigitta back into the screenplay.

I'm thinking another 10-day challenge is in order. Hmmm...

Oh, and B&F are taking Brigitta to the London Book Fair in 2 days! I can't even express how grateful and how excited I am.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Mighty Octopus

On the Reading Pile: I just finished The Last Book in the Universe. I assigned it to my middle graders. It's a post-apocalyptic tale about an unlikely troupe of heroes: an epileptic pre-teen, an crazy old man, an abandoned child who only knows one word, and a utopian princess. It was pretty good. The subject matter is a little advanced for anyone below 5th grade.

Next I'm reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I picked it up from the library because B&F recommended it. Love its website.

* * *

When asked why she was a writer, Susan Sontag said it was because she wanted "every kind of life. And the writer's life seemed the most inclusive."

Right on, Susan. Writer's can live all lives! And even ones that don't exist.

One of the great things about being a writer is that it gives me an excuse to spend great hunks of time looking up fascinating tidbits all in the name of research. There's nothing that isn't worth knowing. Take for instance, what I learned today. I needed to know how octopuses reproduced.

Check this out:

When octopuses reproduce, males use a specialized arm called a hectocotylus to insert spermatophores (packets of sperm) into the female's mantle cavity. The hectocotylus, usually the third right arm, detaches (!) from the male during copulation. Males die within a few months after mating. In some species, the female octopus can keep the sperm alive inside her for weeks until her eggs are mature.

After they have been fertilized, the female lays about 200,000 eggs. The female hangs these eggs in strings from the ceiling of her lair, or individually attaches them to the substratum depending on the species. The female cares for the eggs, guarding them against predators, and gently blowing currents of water over them so that they get enough oxygen. The female does not eat during the roughly one-month period spent taking care of the unhatched eggs.

At around the time the eggs hatch, the mother dies and the young larval octopuses spend a period of time drifting in clouds of plankton, where they feed on copepods, larval crabs and larval starfish until they are ready to sink down to the bottom of the ocean, where the cycle repeats itself.

I had no idea! You can't make stuff like this up! I'm going to have to get some mileage out of this information.

Oh, yeah... back to my writing...

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Limbo Land

I'm twidling my thumbs in the land of Limbo. (okay, so I'm actually twidling emoticons.)

We're supposed to be moving out at the end of the month, but I can't bring myself to look for a new place without Baby. I know he trusts me to pick the right home, but I just want to make sure we're both happy with it. He returns from the UK in 92 hours. Yup, Baby's coming back.

I'm not teaching again until the week of April 30th (except once every other Saturday afternoon), so my course prep and editing work is down to, well, snooze level. Not that I'm complaining! I love the mind break.

B&F have my novel. They told me I don't need to do anything (well, B told me I should pamper myself). They're taking it to the London Book Fair and to the Bologna Children's Book Fair. Do you know how many exhibitors there will be at the LBF? I don't know but there were over 150 listed under the A's alone. Okay, so there weren't that many listed under X, Y, or Z, but you get my drift.

Every publisher I would ever want to query (if I had time and they took unsolicited manuscripts) is going to be there and B&F are taking meetings with as many as possible. Hot damn! It's unbelievable. A few weeks ago I was placing sticky notes in the writer's guide to publishers, hoping to query a few by the end of the April. Now that guide is back on the shelf gathering dust and I don't know what to do with myself...

...and I've been smoke free for almost 80 hours. YOU try quitting smoking when you've got THIS much time on your hands. Actually, I think this time it's going to stick. Because B&F called with their offer 20 minutes after my last cigarette, I will forever equate the two. Quitting smoking = getting a fabulous agent.

For the most part I've been wandering around telling myself I'm a world-famous writer. That all my peeps are out working for me and I don't have to lift a finger. B&F are going to get my book published on 6 continents and NBM is working on my new website (to be launched in one week!). Yup, twidling, twidling, twidling...

I think I'll give my cat a bath.

Oh, and I might start a new 10-day challenge just to keep myself motivated.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Results Are Us! (aka Brigitta Does London)

(It's been over a month since I blogged, I've been very busy. I went to a 4 day seminar, produced a film festival, and worked on set. whew!)

On the Reading pile: Sophie's World (YA novel, a mystery that also explains the history of philosophy... it's all right, but it took me a while to get into it), Bird by Bird (book about life and writing by Anne Lamott), Busting Loose from the Money Game (for the third time, because it's one of those books you have to read over and over again), and The Ultimate Filmmakers Guide to Short Films (because I have 2 friggin' films in post and we're shooting another one this June).

So, yesterday I quit smoking. It's been 24 hours. I made a promise to myself to quit. We learned in Monkey Business School that promises are more powerful than goals.

I sat on the front porch in the sun and closed my eyes. I visualized myself leaping around in happiness, taking full and deep breaths, riding a bike, feeling healthy and strong, etc.

Then I visualized receiving and accepting $650,000 into my life. This number has been popping up in my mind over and over again for the past 4 months. I have the number taped to my wall. I read it and say it out loud and picture it every day. Yesterday I simply pictured a check for that amount being handed to me and seeing that number in my bank account.

Everyone around me knows I'm big on visualization. Here's one I've been having since Christmas:

I'm puttering around the house. Straightening up, being domestic, clearing the clutter. The phone rings. It's an agent. We chat and joke for a few minutes (friendly small talk). Then he tells me how much he (at first my vision was a she, but somewhere along the way it changed to a he and I'm not sure why) loves Brigitta.

Well yesterday afternoon, 20 mins after that last cigarette, I got the call.

It was EXACTLY as I had visualized it. I was cleaning up around the house (yes, it's true). The phone rang. I thought "who's calling from New York?" The man asked for Da-NI-ka. I corrected his pronunciation and he laughed. He said they'd been wondering how to pronounce it. Then he told me who he was and my heart stopped (figuratively, no need to call the hospitals).

My vision was so clear in my mind that the whole experience felt like deja vous.

After leaping around the house screaming "ohmygodohmygodohmygod" for a full fifteen minutes, I was in stun mode the rest of the day. Now i'm in "what the heck do I do now?" mode. Guess I better contact all the other agents to let them know!

Here are the final numbers for the curious:

Total Queries: 33 agents and 3 publishers

fastest rejection from query: 6 minutes (i kid you not)

no reply to query: 19
no thanks (no partial request): 6
partials only (no full request): 8
requested fulls: 3
made offer: 1

In all fairness, twelve of those queries went out in the last 2 weeks, so they haven't had time to reply. That said, the average response from an e-query has been less than 2 weeks. I can't tell you the average response for a snail mail query, because none of them have responded yet.

So there you go. That's the story. For now.

Don't quit before the miracle happens, Beaver Chief always used to say. Or in MM speak: don't quit before the finish line.